09 Nov Around Bogotá, the city structure
Around Bogotá: The city structure of Bogotá – streets, avenues
Bogotá’s structure is very logical (in most parts of the city). The city lies on a 2600 m plateau. The city expands towards the North, South and West, it is surrounded by 3000 m high mountains from the East. The streets (calle) and avenues (carrera) are named – starting from the city center in ascending order – by numbers. The avenues are parallel with the North-South direction and the streets are perpendicular to it. It’s easy to navigate around the city this way, as regards to the directions and distances. You can see the system easily on the Google map below:
Around Bogotá – Pedestrian and bicycle traffic
There are not a lot of pedestrians; I am an exception from that since I walk the nearly 4 km distance almost every day between my office and my apartment. There are few pedestrians at night, it is much more practical and comfortable to get a taxi or uber at this time than to walk around.
Bicycle traffic is pretty good in the city, a lot of people commute to work by bike; the city has hundreds of kms of bicycle roads.
Colombia isn’t one of the most popular tourist destinations because most people think of 2 things when they think of Colombia: the bloody crimes and cocaine. 20 years ago this might have been true, maybe even 15 years ago. But in the last 10 years, drastic changes have started to come about and even though we’re not talking about European level security, if you accept “the rules” you will enjoy yourself immensely and will be able to travel around without having to be particularly brave.
What rules am I talking about?It’s not anything new or surprising:
- leave your expensive, flashy jewellery and watches at home
- don’t carry a lot of cash on you
- don’t go into certain parts of town (this is also true for European big cities, there are districts where you don’t usually go – it’s the same here, with the slight difference that there are proportionally more of these districts than in Europe or the US)
It also feels nice that just because you’re a tourist, they won’t try to scam you, in reality Colombians are rather happy to help out any foreigner, be it a street vendor, police officer or banker that you ask for help.
Zones (Estratos) in Bogotá
In Colombia, they grade zones from 1 to 6 (estratos), which are officially approved by the government (social-economic zones). 1 counts as the worst, 6 counts as the best. So what does it all mean? People pay their utility bills based on which “estrato” they live in. There are huge differences – they are multiplied between the number 1 and 6 zones. People living in zones 1, 2 and 3 receive free public education, get discounts for public transport and also receive free social security (don’t think of high quality health care though). It’s not uncommon in Latin America that right next to an estrato 1, there is an estrato 6. The price of real estate also changes according to which zone it’s in. The map below shows the different zones in Bogotá:
As a European, it’s surprising and interesting that every buildings in estratos 4-5-6 have a doorman service. You can’t just walk into any building, not even with a key or a code. If you want to invite a guest over you have to let the doorman know and he will let them in. They don’t even let pizza delivery guys in, they let you know over the phone that your pizza has arrived. This is due to the previously horrible public safety – people find safety to be very important to this day, since they haven’t had it for so long.